|Vintage Darts medal by Pinches Medallions of London (Est. 1840)|
This situation would have been hard to believe only a few decades ago, at a time when Darts had made a very successful transition from pub to televised sport, and a pub's Darts Board would rarely have been out of use. It's worth remembering though that Darts itself would have usurped other once popular pub games such as Indoor Quoits and Shove Ha'penny. Indeed for younger drinker like myself in the 80's and 90's, Pool was the game of choice, the cool tinge of Americana being far more attractive than the native Arrows.
Darts clings on though, and is as popular as ever in the more traditional, though sadly dwindling backstreet boozers and social clubs. The strong association which many feel between Darts and proper pubs mean that a board may still be considered an essential part of an otherwise radical modernisation of a struggling pub. The Three Crowns in Oakham underwent just such a refurbishment last year, but in common with most of the Steamin' Billy estate, space for a Darts Board was found, shown here reflected in an old Shipstones Brewery mirror.
The original Steamin' Billy pub was a conversion of farm buildings near the village of Stoughton in Leicestershire. The Cow & Plough quickly established itself as the premier real ale pub in Leicestershire, and gave owners Barry & Liz Lount the opportunity to display some of their extensive collection of pub and brewery related ephemera. The Cow & Plough has evolved over the years, extended to the front from the original core, and now as popular for the attached restaurant as the traditionally styled tap room.
The original bar area has been brightened up in recent years (above), and includes a Darts Board and a pair of vintage Automatic Darts Scorers (below), probably manufactured by Bissets of London. This type of scorer is still quite common in pubs, though more often a modern(ish) electronic version. By dialling in your score, the three numbers above count down automatically from 365. Simple enough arithmetic on a chalk board, but it's surprising how many people are put off playing the game seriously because of the tricky subtraction involved.
The Darts Board at the White Lion in Oakham, Rutland is set at a slight angle due to the shape of the building and the location of a piano. The pub was once a hotbed of Darts play in the county, with several boards dotted around the bar area. They were certainly well-used at the time when the pub team became the National Darts Association Champions for 1970 in a competition sponsored by The People newspaper.
An assortment of 'Arrows', including an older style of chunky Brass bodied Marksman Super League Dart, and the thinner modern equivalents formed of Tungsten alloy. Tungsten Darts are the norm for play now, the thinner bodies being easier to 'stack' in the treble 20, whilst maintaining the weight required for a good throw. Brewers were as keen to advertise in the Darts arena as any other pub game, and the two branded Darts sets featured here are adorned with the famous harp logo of Guinness, and the Red Squirrel of the long closed Ansells Brewery in Aston, Birmingham (formerly the logo of Birmingham's Holt Brewery).
|One of several Darts Boards in the Function/Games room of the Herdsman pub, Hereford|